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Time time to nurture the Christmas spirit

Nostalgia is common as Christmas nears. People remember better times, when life seemed simpler.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:04 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Well, it’s beginning to look, sound and smell a lot like Christmas. Almost everywhere you turn, multi-colored lights are twinkling from rooftops, strains of Handel’s “Messiah” are pouring through the seams of stained-glass windows, while the sweet, smell of fresh pine trees clings to the crusty air.

Frankly, I welcome the spirit of Christmas. Over the past months, my mind and soul have grown weary of war and violence and harsh words crackling across the airwaves like rifle shots firing from all directions. Sometimes, I think a sense of peace and tranquility is not something which is valued in contemporary life. Some people seem to be almost embarrassed if their households are not surrounded by noise around the clock.

One of my family memories is of a nephew who was sprawled out on his back on a wooden bench in his grandmother’s back yard, staring at the open sky. His mother walked up and began to chide him for being lazy. My mother was working in her garden at the time and, when she heard the exchange, she asked the younger mother, “Isn’t the world still safe for day-dreaming?”

Time after time, I recall that question as I observe people around me, on the street, sitting in reception rooms or in line at the post office, their feet and hands in a constant state of perpetual motion. Looking busy, even when they are alone and standing still. One would think that appearing to be idle is a sin. I suppose if there wasn’t an unfortunate illness called attention-deficit disorder, we’d have to invent one to account for our never-ending fidgeting.

People who work at home tell me that one of the great advantages of being their own boss is that they can insert “thinking time” into their schedule without having to explain to anyone else that often they can save precious hours of busywork by spending a few minutes in concentration, addressing the problem mentally.

Although I’m a firm believer that it is as important to maintain good mental health as it is to remain physically fit, I’m not certain I have convinced many people of this. Nevertheless, when I visit some old friends and classmates whom I don’t see on a regular basis, I am not sure they are aware of the slow way their minds work. These are folks who were once sharp. So, often their memories of events that occurred only a few years ago have already faded into oblivion.

Their conversations center primarily on their personal affairs, their health and the activities of their children and grandchildren. Their world has become a narrow prison cell, where their thoughts have settled in one place and periodically circulate. Any effort toward steering them outside themselves, in the direction of world affairs or current events, usually extends no farther than the latest television programs. I truly believe if people spent more time keeping mentally alert they might find their physical health not so troublesome. But this, I fear, is another lost war.

Because the holiday season tends to be stressful, I try to spend as much time as possible in pursuit of quiet pleasures. I try to spend several nights a week driving through different neighborhoods gazing at the array of Christmas decorations. It’s the perfect time to experiment with new recipes from the collection of cookbooks I’ve gathered from the summer’s garage sales. Over the years, my family and I have gotten in the habit of assembling “care” packages for one another from items we’ve gathered at yard sales, antique stores and flea markets throughout the year. So just before Christmas, I pick and choose among these items and prepare boxes for family members and friends.

It’s time to revisit old Christmas stories and share the experiences of lifelong friends like Tiny Tim. Every year a new crop of books about Christmas appear on the shelves of book stores. They are fun to read, and one can only marvel at the number of ways authors choose to express their views of the season.

It’s common to hear people say that, by the time Christmas arrives, they will be completely stressed out. When I hear those on my Christmas list express these sentiments, I purchase them a gift certificate from their favorite massage therapist and place it under their tree. With 12 months each year to prepare for the holiday season, it seems rather short-sighted to try to cram all the planning and preparations into a few days. Maybe that could be food for thought for the coming year.

Around this time, we all seem to get a little nostalgic. We all remember better times, when life seemed simpler. Over the years, I have come to realize that, on those occasions when I remember life at its sweetest, I also have to remember that someone went to great lengths to make it so. In other words, it didn’t just happen. From that reflection I have learned that, if I want my life to be simpler and sweeter, I also have to work to make it so.

Twelve more days to meditate on the true meaning of Christmas.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net


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